Why I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman

Real name. Real situation. I need advice from wise COTHers please.

By sheer luck, I have relocated and finally have the proximity to english riding + disposable income to learn to ride from a professional. Grew up riding for pleasure and have sporadically ridden as an adult by buying my own horses and doing the lowest level of non-recognized eventing schooling shows very occasionally.

I have an old injury that I am careful to protect so eventing is not an ideal discipline. I began looking for a HJ program that is willing to take on a timid beginner/intermediate adult. I’ve tried researching social media, word of mouth, asking anyone even remotely connected to HJland for recommendations, and all the rest of it…and I am getting no closer to riding than I was when I lived in the middle of nowhere.

I honestly feel like Julia Roberts, standing in the Beverly Hills boutique with disapproving saleswomen looking down their noses at me. The only emails that generated a response included the information that I have budgeted for a lease + an annual budget of 100k for showing and expenses. But even that’s not enough to join the program of the trainer who responded (haven’t heard from them since - likely because I also included that I have a career and can ride - at most - thrice weekly. I also cannot spare more than 2 weeks away from my job during the Winter circuit (and that’s only if my partners agree to cover for me).

I don’t want to end up at a lesson mill full of kids or with a trainer who does not have many years of experience, nor do I want to own again.

If the horse is out of the barn, so to speak, and it’s just too late in life for a 50-something with a demanding career and devotion to family to give this a try, could someone please tell me?

Many thanks for any advice.


What is most important to you to be doing in a typical lesson or show? That is, jumping vs flatting, jumping level (both height and type of course), mixed discipline or not, doing all of your own grooming/work on the horse or having someone do that for you, what type of horse do you want to ride (training, experience & physical type). Anything else you can think of that is important to you.

Asking because it is important to define fairly specifically the program that would make you happiest. Not just a certain name trainer or venue. I think some details would assist replies and advice. :slight_smile:

There is definitely something out there for you, it is a matter of better ways to go about finding it. I think you’ll get some great ideas here on COTH.

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Yeah, there has got to be somebody around you who knows how to ride and train well with kindness and it could be any discipline and be open, ok? Get on Facebook and find your local community. You’ll be so much happier.

We’ll help you! Where are you located?


I think the hard part is that I don’t know what I don’t know.

I enjoy flat work but find the detail and precision of serious dressage to be tiresome. I enjoy watching quality hunter rounds but anything over 3’ looks massive to me. I asked an acquaintance horse show mom about adult equitation and she gently told me to forget about that because I’ll never catch up at my age and level to the young adults who have aged out of a “junior career” (I didn’t even know that was a thing). I am nowhere near the skill set needed to ride a jumper.

I will be lucky to make it out to a barn three times a week - riding or not. That’s just not enough for me to care for a horse on my own the right way. So that leaves either a half-lease or a full-service show barn from what I understand.

I need a sound, saintly packer-type that will not dump me on my ass in response to riding learned from 3 decades of winging it and hoping for the best for under 50k - but so does everyone else these days.

I actually truly enjoy just being around horses. The showing is the least of it for me, but when I tried eventing, I will admit the picnicking and grooming were my favorite parts.

One nice trainer who responded asked me what my “goals” were and I was so caught offguard that I said “not die”.


Absolutely not too late, it can be done!! And with the budget you describe there absolutely should be programs available to you in any region. But where you are located and what kind of showing you want to do will inform and affect the norm and what is reasonable, because what is reasonable in California for example is very different from many other parts of the country. So if you can share where you are located that will help people give you more targeted advice.

But in any event I’m an adult with a demanding career who can ride no more than 3 times a week, and I manage to make it to A shows and show in the 3’ adults at pretty regular intervals, with the help of a good program to keep my horse fit and tuned up. So I can definitely attest it can be done, you just have to find the right program and that can take a minute!


You know what it sounds like you might like? Hilltopping with a foxhunt. Slower pace, no jumping, and a picnic afterwards!

But really, start anywhere. Join your local Facebook group and ask who is teaching beginner adults. Go observe a lesson and make sure the instructor seems reasonable and safe. Do a trial lesson. Find out what their program looks like. Even try some barns that do more Western and horsemanship stuff, you may find you like that more now. Shop around for a while, get to know people, get the word out, and see what happens.


Even if you’re not coming with a “junior career” behind you there is zero reason you can’t get up to speed to do some local 2’6" adult medals/eq or even the 3’ Ariat/THIS/Adult Eq division if you want to. Might those other riders in the division be a bunch of college students? Probably. But there’s not an upper age cap on those divisions–go do them and have fun if you want to. I still love riding in eq classes, and I’m in my 40s. No reason you can’t, too!

Where are you located, OP? There’s a lot of variation around the country in what’s available where–you might have a lot fewer options in Wyoming, for example, than here in MD. But there are also programs that cater mainly to adults, or that focus on a mix of regional A and nicer local/regionally recognized shows that would be perfect for you. If you give us a general idea on area, we can probably make some suggestions for you. Searching on here can be helpful, too, but the search can also be a little wonky.


I agree not to give up hope, but as someone who started seriously riding in her 30s and only had the income level to lesson/lease rather than own, I have to say that in the past couple of years or so in my area in the Northwest, it’s been very difficult to find barns that offer decent instruction and horse care (because even if I don’t own the horse, I don’t want to ride at a barn where the care is sketchy) to non-owners or less-than very affluent prospective horse owners.

Quite simply, as costs go up for everything, it’s more advantageous for barns to cater to the top of the market, and mid-level barns are either catering to wealthier clients or closing. Or they’re finding it pays better to cater to richer clients with multiple horses in training, or junior riders, versus taking on new clients looking for a single horse. Plus, many barns are also short of help, re: assistant trainers to take off the lesson load of the main trainer.


Sorry but just had to say :rofl:


You need to start modestly and then move up trainers programs horses as appropriate. Right now you need solid time in the saddle to regain your seat, gain confidence, and get your aids cleaned up. When I went back to riding 15 years ago I did lessons twice a week at a very competent but modest local show h/j barn where most of the clientele were juniors. I had private lessons in the morning when no kids were around. I drifted out of that program after I leased a green mare in another barn connected to a classical dressage coach. I kept the mare, I bought a truck and trailer, we go horse camping and back country trail riding. I also learned alot about groundwork and trick training. My horse is at a very low cost self board club and I’m on the board of directors currently vice president. Absolutely none of this could I have predicted when I signed up for my first returning rider lrsson

You don’t need a plan and you don’t need access to high dollar horses and an A level show circuit right now. You need safe horses and a kind instructor with an eye for beginner basics who will teach you good form on your own speed. Once you get your skills back you can think about moving on.


Something in the way you are approaching people is giving the wrong impression, or you are hitting a roadblock specific to your area.
Most trainers would love to hear “I want to buy or lease a horse, pay you to take care of it, I have basically no goals, and you will only need to see me three times a week. That is frankly an ideal client for most programs.
So something isn’t coming across right if people are running away rather than picking you up to look at horses.


That is exactly my experience in the mid-Atlantic. I am looking for quality instruction from a mature, reputable trainer. What I am finding is that these trainers are either full with a waitlist
or cater to riders who already lease/own. Quality schoolies seem to be a thing of the past.


Number one - ignore that advice. Do you care at all about winning blue ribbons? If not, try adult equitation if that is what you want to do and it will make you happy.

For most adults, it’s the journey that counts, not trying to reach some unattainable goal. Let’s face it, probably none of us are going to the Olympics. So as long as you pick a horse activity that you can do (relatively) safely and it makes you happy, go for it.

Your goal could just be continuing steady improvement in your riding. If you want to show, your goal could be improving on your own performance from your previous show, despite the placings.

Riding is a continuum with all kinds of happy between the two ends. Start the journey, have fun and see where it takes you. Best of luck in finding the right situation for you. :kissing_heart:


Thanks for all the responses. Lots for me to think on.

So I’m in the bubble of Northern Delaware. My free time is limited so while I can get to Wilmington DE, Fair Hill MD, and the Southern part of Chester County PA within a half-hour or so, the HJ barns on the PA Main Line or in Northern Chester County around Chester Springs are out of reach and I’ve been told that’s where the majority of the HJ scene is located.

I’ve done enough in different disciplines to know that I’m best suited at this point - for many reasons - to HJ.


Just going to throw this out there–you’re in prime combined driving country, I swear it’s the most fun you can have with a horse (pony in my case), and people are usually thrilled if new people want to get involved. Most. Fun. Ever.


From somebody who took over 20 years off and then started back with a stressful job and two kids in elementary school: have an open mind. I wouldn’t assume too much about certain barns without giving them a fair shot, a visit, talking to clients if possible, asking questions of the trainers in person if possible, etc. I started at a lesson barn with many children, everywhere, and I loved it. It turns out that the barn also had the most lovely group of adult riders ever. I rode medium ponies in my lessons! Now, my god, I own multiple horses and go to big shows. Should have stayed at the lesson barn, and I mean that absolutely seriously.


You sound like a great client. Healthy budget for anywhere in the country, realistic expectations, and you want to learn and improve. Most good trainers are just really, really busy right now. A lot of people started riding during Covid or started riding much more and on the East Coast, show season is in full swing.

It is super hard to get into a good H/J program without your own horse these days, and school horses are definitely becoming a thing of the past. I agree with everyone saying to just start riding wherever/however you can and keep looking for a perfect fit. If you lesson for 6 months at a local lesson barn and get your sea legs back, and then a half lease opens up on a nice 2 ft packer at a better barn, you are much more prepared for that opportunity than you are right now.

Have you asked all your local tack shops and feed stores? And your local horsey FB groups? My other note is that emailing trainers is generally useless. The phone call is king for people running around the barn all day. And if you’re really interested in a place, call a few times.


I am open to any ideas. I have tried to be totally transparent when contacting trainers in my area that my list of “cannots” is long. As in, I cannot: ride more than three days a week, and never before 5 on a weekday; spend the Winter flying back and forth to Florida or Aiken; ride locally in the Winter without an indoor; spend more than 100k/year on this endeavor; commit to a lease without spending at least a few months taking lessons to determine whether HJ is even the right fit for me because the only thing I know about horse showing came from equestriancoach.com; buy a horse ever; commit to doing this for anything longer than a couple-few years because I’ll be relocating once my contract ends.

Despite my budget, I think the reality is that I am far from an ideal client for the majority of HJ trainers.

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I am curious as to why you are focused on showing. From what you are saying, it sounds as if a nice quiet trail horse, and some interesting trails and other trail riders to go with it, would satisfy all the wants, without the burdens of showing & show barn.

And find a barn/program that will give your horse some rides during the week when you can’t be out. In a more western-riding environment, depending on where you are located, there should be barns that have this option.

You don’t seem to be comfortable with the showing environment. I think that’s likely very apparent when you talk to trainers. But they don’t want to come right out and say “you’re in the wrong lane” when they barely know you. I’m guessing, though, from the little you have shared here.

The “Pretty Woman” scenario will be easily fixed as soon as you are in a setting where you feel at home and confident. :slight_smile:

This! Wonderful idea!

If you want to dress in the clothes, have the group camaraderie, but without the stress and pressure of showing and training for shows, this is an outstanding option! And you will meet people who are more like you in outlook re horse activity. :slight_smile:

And of course with a barn that has people/other lease riders/ trainer that will give your horse mid-week rides.


I might not be so quick to ditch the idea of eventing. At the lower levels it’s pretty sedate and a fraction of the cost of hunter/jumpers. Also the eventing world is considerably more friendly and supportive (sorry - this is what I hear from those who have done both worlds)